Viral advertisements spreading

USA Today talks about viral advertising spreading thorough marketing plans. It was a tie-in to their reporting on the Cannes Cyber Lions awards, and apparently is one of the "hot topics" being chatted about during the Cannes Festival this year.

"People have grown increasingly skeptical of packaged, canned, Madison Avenue-speak," says Russ Klein, Burger King's chief marketing officer.

The company has reversed a long sales decline thanks in part to its increased use of non-traditional marketing, especially viral. It has proved particularly useful in reaching the fast-food chain's core market of young men.

The key to effective viral: Create and execute an idea that's intriguing enough to get consumers to interact. Burger King has used wacky ideas by agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky to promote its chicken sandwiches and salads online.

"Interruption or disruption as the fundamental premise of marketing" no longer works, says Jeff Hicks, chief executive and partner at Crispin Porter + Bogusky. "You have to create content that is interesting, useful or entertaining enough to invite (the consumer). Viral is the ultimate invitation."

Unless it sucks. And quite a few do.

Quite honestly I didn't quite see why CP+B's "Come Clean" site for Method won the Grand Prix. It didn't have much of a viral life. It's one of those things to visit once and never return to. I don't think I'd pass it on to anyone. Besides the fact that I wouldn't go back to the site to see what other things people have put down to "come clean" with, the most vital part of the viral, it's "viral aspect" isn't very strong. Yes, it's nicely designed but as a mini site with a "viral" aspect to it, it's a shame that it won.

The Grand Prix Cyber Lion handed out to DDB Brasil for their site for Henkel Super Bonder Instant Glue was more deserving. Better viral/user return type stuff on there. Also very nicely designed.

Judges also gave that terrible "Lincoln Fry" from McDonald's a bronze (and the tv component of the campaign is shortlisted for the film category! argh). Bronze also went to Crispin's Chicken Fight, which is a bit of a disappointment. Quite honestly I think it too had a better viral aspect to it than the Method site.

The thing is as virals become more common place, two things are going to have to happen. First, they are going to have to be amazing to break through the clutter that is going to happen/happening. And second, there is going to have to be an incremental increase in the amount of new ways to use the web creatively, because if every viral works along the same premise as the Subserviant Chicken, for example, people are going to become bored with it very quickly. It will lose it's power to spread and become a dud. And there have already been a ton of brands/sites to use this method, making it already passe.

All of this means we need programmers to continue to create new and interesting methods of being able to execute great ideas and concepts online. And for as long as the viral is around. Sure you could just make a film and make it viral, but the more interactive the viral, the longer people stay, the better you can hammer in your branding message or communicate your pitch to the consumers. These other components are going to be vital to the life and success of the viral advertisement.

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AnonymousCoward's picture

Oh you two had to know this topic would flush me out of the woodwork, right? Part of the problem is a less than common definition of the word "viral" when applied to marketing: different people are using that word to mean different things, and then measuring the results of success in different ways. "Viral" has become a general catch-all category for everything interactive, in a way. There's still alot of education to take place for agencies and marketers alike with any new practice.

Jeff Hick's theoretical advice is right: the age of intrusion is drawing to a close, and it's final chapter will look like an arms race between the tools to prevent intrusion and the tools to enable intrusion. "Viral" (in terms of the pass-along, word-of-mouthish feature that gets labeled with that) is essentially just a form of testimonial -- and that means creating a value exchange that favors the audience more than advertiser, which is a fundamentally different way of thinking about it.

It's just that it's as old as the birth of commercial supported radio broadcasts in early part of the last century. Marketers are starting to wake up again to the power of being a sponsor instead of being just an advertiser.

And when did Cannes become like the Olypmics or something where we're keeping track of how many medals come home? Jeeze, that hardly ever happens on the film or entertainment circuit. At least not along nationalistic lines.

AnonymousCoward's picture

Well, cafffeinegoddess, a panel of award-winning international judges and I (the art director of Lincoln Fry) would disagree with you and your opinion of Lincoln Fry. It's about time it got the praise it deserved. REDEMPTION! Thank you Cannes Judges and all your positive feedback. And you, caffeinegoddess, see you at the awards shows. Have a nice day!!!